By Hannah Lott-Schwartz
Updated: June 04, 2019
Courtesy of Nikki Redman Photos

From walking with kangaroos to swimming with giant cuttlefish, the animal experiences you can have in South Australia are worth planning a trip around. Here are some of the top experiences to cross off your bucket list.

Swim with thousands of giant color-changing cuttlefish

Carl Charter

Once a year, in the shallow waters where the Spencer Gulf meets Whyalla’s sandy shore, thousands of giant cuttlefish hover above the ocean floor. It’s the only place in the world where you can experience the wild-looking creatures like this, which are actually swimming mollusks. (Their shell is internal.)

Between May and August, the males change color and flash brilliant shades akin to healthy coral to attract the females. While guided tours are offered, you can easily wade into the water for a snorkel on your own at Stony Point or Black Point, both of which have added platforms to make accessing the water easier. But come prepared to wear a thick wetsuit — it’s the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere, and water temperatures are frigid.

From $679 AUD per person for a cuttlefish package tour with pureSA.

Listen to the humpbacks’ song along the Great Australian Bight

Courtesy of Australian Wildlife Journeys

Winter brings out the best of South Australia’s beasts, including endangered Southern right and humpback whales, penguins, white-bellied sea eagles, and sweet puppy-eyed Australian sea lions.

Between June and September, spend five days on and near the water with Australian Coastal Safaris, a member of the exclusive Australian Wildlife Journeys portfolio, for an array of intimate experiences like hearing the humpback’s characteristic song, watching Australian seal pups learn to swim, and visiting the only wild koala colony on the Eyre Peninsula.

From $2,565 AUD per person for the five-day Eyre Peninsula Winter Whale Watching and Wildlife Encounter tour.

Walk among kangaroos, emus, and wallaroos on a luxury-studded multi-day trek

Courtesy of South Australian Tourism Commission

A former sheep station turned private wildlife conservancy, the Arkaba Conservancy and its luxury homestead are set on 60,000 acres of the ancient and dramatic Flinders Ranges, which have developed over the last 600 million years. Rewilding efforts have brought native marsupials back to the land, and you can hike with them and other creatures — kangaroos, wallaroos, emus, wedge-tailed eagles, parrots, and more — on the four-day Arkaba Walk (one of the Great Walks of Australia) with expert guides who provide not only fascinating insights but also top-end creature comforts.

From $2,400 AUD per person for the Arkaba Walk four-day tour, March–October

Fly with mallee ringneck parrots on a heli-hike

Courtesy of South Australian Tourism Commission

Start your hike on high in a helicopter as you fly over the Chace Range to land at Gregory Gap, where there’s stunning views of the Flinders. The landscape, however, is in competition with the local mallee ringneck parrots, whose dazzling tropical hues are cause for frequent stops.

Make sure to keep your eyes on the ground for at least part of the time though: Most of the five-and-a-half-mile trek back to Rawnsley Park Station is a steep downhill, and there’s red kangaroos and other critters to watch for along the way.

From $540 per person for the Heli-hike From Gregory Gap five-hour tour, March–October

Cage dive with music-loving great white sharks

Courtesy of Adventure Bay Charters

Cage diving with sharks has become controversial in the last decade, with claims that the practice is neither sustainable nor authentic and further confirms stereotypes of bloodthirsty beasts thrashing around in the water as they devour flesh greedily. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than sprinkle the waters around the Eyre Peninsula with chum or other bait, Adventure Bay Charters uses music to attract great whites to the boat. The best performing artist? Australia’s own AC/DC, of course.

From $420 AUD for the Shark Cage Diving with Great White Sharks full-day (12-hour) tour

Ogle ’roos, sleepy sea lions, and fuzzy bottoms on Kangaroo Island

Courtesy of Nikki Redman Photos

Kangaroo Island is exactly what it sounds like: A veritable sanctuary for Australia’s most famous marsupial, along with Australian sea lions, massive goannas, wallabies, and koalas — or fuzzy bottoms, as Kangaroo Island Odysseys guide Nikki Redman, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the island and its creatures, calls them.

More than a third of the island is protected, but on the Highlights of Kangaroo Island tour, you can get within feet of rare Australian sea lions, take a private sunset safari through a nature reserve hopping with hundreds of kangaroos, and have tea on a rocky seaside cliff, looking for sharks in the turquoise waters below.

From $1,098 per person for the Highlights of Kangaroo Island two-day, one-night tour

Go behind the scenes with researchers to study the world’s oldest living animal

Courtesy of Australian Wildlife Journeys

Though it may at first glance look like a porcupine (or, more likely, a dry bush), the echidna is more closely related to a platypus. It’s the oldest living animal on Earth, dating back 120 million years. Researchers believe that they may have been able to outlast dinosaurs due to their curious ability to sustain high levels of carbon dioxide.

Today, they can only be found in Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea, and with Exceptional Kangaroo Island, you can go behind the scenes with Dr. Peggy Rismiller, who studies the short-beaked echidna, to learn more about this fascinating animal.

Enquire with Exceptional Kangaroo Island for price for the Behind the Scenes with Researchers: Echidnas tour.

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